Experts at Naperville event say it takes a lot of time, effort to take care of an exotic bird

It was a day for the birds, exotic ones specifically, at the Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville as the theater celebrated the opening of the new movie “Rio 2” last weekend by offering a special charity event and promotion that featured some of the same species of birds used in the movie.

Kids and their parents had the chance to experience a special bird exhibit as well as learn about bird rescue and care through the HAPPE Parrot Rescue in Bolingbrook, run by its director, Kathy Forst. HAPPE stands for Helping with the Adoption and Placement of Parrots Everywhere.

Forst brought a number of cockatoos and macaws to the theater as part of a two-dozen bird exhibit that included birds she currently cares for as well as others that are currently in foster care.

Prior to the screening of the film, kids’ activities were offered in the lobby including face painting, a craft table, a meet-and-greet with the birds, a silent auction for adults, and a photo booth with bird props. Later in the afternoon, the Easter bunny, along with a professional photographer, was available for pictures.

Pedro Cepeda of Aurora and his daughter Gaby, 11, were among the first to arrive Saturday and said they were eager to learn about exotic birds as well as see the movie.

“I think anything kids can learn about something real like this is good,” Cepeda said. “I think offering something educational along with the movie is a good idea.”

Forst offered information that included where the various birds come from, how to care for and feed them as well as having a Stephanie Moy, a veterinarian with the Chicago Exotic Animal Hospital in Skokie, answers questions from the audience.

“A lot of people don’t always realize how difficult it is to care for these birds, as many of them live as long as humans,” Moy said. “Some of the most important issues include knowing where these birds come from and what they eat. Some birds like the cockatoos are very clingy and have issues when people aren’t around enough or were there regularly and suddenly leave because they’ve gone back to work.”

Moy noted that birds currently rank fourth in the nation behind dogs, cats, and rabbits as pets, and that one of the concerns about a movie like “Rio 2” is that “people could become too impulsive” and want to buy an exotic bird.

“As I’ve said, some of these birds can live 100 years and there is always the question of who cares for the bird if the original owner passes on or finds it too difficult,” she said. “Sometimes these ‘animal’ movies really spur an interest and people can get impulsive without looking into all that’s involved.”

Ed Forst, husband of HAPPE director Kathy Forst, was proud to show off his own bird Merlin, who he said was 15 years old. Forst also warned about the impulsive acquisition of exotic birds.

“A lot of people see a beautiful bird like this and make it into a kind of trophy, not realizing how much work these birds require and the huge responsibility it is,” he said. “People like to feed these birds nuts which is kind of like chocolate for humans. It’s junk food. You have to learn how to take care of them.”

Some visitors Saturday like Jamila Joseph of Aurora and her daughter Emma, 7, got an extra bonus as they were celebrating a birthday of one of Emma’s friends in addition to seeing the exhibit and the movie.

Emma said she loved the first “Rio” movie “because the birds were so funny and colorful” and that her favorite part “was when they learned how to fly.”

“I really loved the first movie and I want to see what happens this time to the bird named ‘Blue,’” Emma said.

Jamilia Jospeh said she liked the fact that her daughter and her friends were having “a real life experience” at the special Hollywood Palms event.

“I think having the actual birds here is a really cool experience because these are birds we can’t see every day,” she said. “I’m also happy there’s a decent movie for kids to see without the violence and a good storyline.”